The novel coronavirus – COVID-19 – puts specific populations, including the elderly, at risk for severe disease symptoms and outcomes. As healthcare providers, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) have special skills to treat the aging population during the pandemic.
Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners work in primary care, intensive care, trauma and acute care units. They also practice in specialty clinics and long-term care facilities, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) said.
Michelle Moccia, DNP and past president of the Gerontologic Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA), said the aging population is susceptible to the novel coronavirus because of a less responsive immune system.
“The effects of aging have a major influence in the response to a respiratory virus or bacteria,” Moccia said in Minority Nurse. “As one ages, the immune system is less responsive to a virus or bacteria with an inflammatory response to fight off the virus and/or tolerate the complications from the virus. The elderly have limited cardiopulmonary reserve, thus a compromise in airway and breathing can lead to the inability to breathe, thus predisposing individuals to complications such as pneumonia.”
As specialists in elder care, registered nurses (RNs) who become adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners work to ensure members of the aging population get the specialized services they need. RNs who take online master’s in nursing programs can earn their degrees concurrently with their full-time jobs.
COVID-19’s Impact on the Aging Population
In March 2020, Stat, a healthcare-focused news site, reported that 13.4% of patients age 80 and older died as a result of COVID-19, while 1.25% of those in their 50s and 0.3% of those in their 40s died. The article, based on the research paper titled “Estimates of the severity of coronavirus disease 2019: a model-based analysis,” stated that patients age 70 and above were at the highest risk for death as a result of the virus.
The reduced immunity was due to the slowing of T-cell production, which is a normal part of aging. T cells are a type of white blood cell that are essential to the immune system.
Helping Older Patients with Acute, Chronic and Critical Conditions
Most often, AGACNPs work in hospital inpatient units with patients who are critically ill, the AANP said. Like other nurse practitioners, AGACNPs are expected to be knowledgeable in several competency areas:
AGACNPs should use evidence-driven scientific knowledge and theoretical foundations to understand the differences between normal and abnormal changes in patient development.
AGACNPs should provide guidance, mentorship, consultation and educational experiences to students, nurses and other providers. They should also be able to coordinate healthcare services for patients and explain their role to the general public.
AGACNPs should implement evidence-based interventions that provide quality improvements to practice.
Technology and information literacy
AGACNPs should be able to use devices and technology for the betterment of patient care and synthesize data from a variety of sources. They should also be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the available systems and apply legal and ethical standards to their use.
AGACNPs should have the skills and knowledge to advocate for the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner role and scope of practice.
AGACNPs should be able to identify and deliver culturally sensitive healthcare to their patient population. They should have appropriate communication skills and practice expertise to promote an efficient use of resources within the spectrum of safe and high-quality care.
AGACNPs must interact with interprofessional teams to address issues including patient and family rights, healthcare decision-making, quality of life and utilization of resources.
AGACNPs also must be able to practice independent of oversight, including managing complex acute, critical and chronic health problems in older adults.
“The scope of practice of the AG ACNP is not setting-specific but rather is based on patient care needs,” the AANP said in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care and Primary Care NP Competencies. “The AG ACNP also coordinates comprehensive care in and across care settings to ensure that the acute and chronic illness needs of patients are met during care transitions.”
Treating Aging COVID-19 Patients
Patients who are over age 65 are at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 complications. Older patients who have comorbidities, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, hypertension and obesity, are at an even higher risk for complications that can lead to death.
RNs who work as adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners are positioned to identify older patients who may suffer severe reactions to the novel coronavirus or those who are already sick. Through Duquesne University’s online master’s in nursing programs, students can learn skills in advanced nursing techniques.
About Duquesne University’s Online MSN Degree Program
Duquesne University’s online MSN program allows RNs to earn an advanced education in one of six tracks:
- Forensic Nursing
- Nurse Education and Faculty Roles
- Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management
Students can further complement their track of study by adding a specialized concentration in Nurse Education, Forensic Nursing or Transcultural Nursing.
Duquesne University also offers online Post-Master’s Certificate programs for RNs who already have an MSN. The flexible online coursework allows RNs to continue their career and family commitments while earning an advanced degree.
For more information about the programs, contact Duquesne University today.
Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?: AANP
Protecting Older Adults During the COVID-19 Outbreak: Minority Nurse
What explains COVID-19’s lethality for the elderly? Scientists look to ‘twilight’ of the immune system: STAT
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care And Primary Care NP Competencies: AANP